Please note: the Ph.D in Literature Program at the University of Notre Dame is no longer admitting new students.


Scholars have increasingly argued that the institutional division of literatures into an archipelago of disciplines enclosed in national boundaries hampers and even distorts literary studies. For example, Princeton University Press’s book series, “Translation / Transnation,” under the general editorship of Emily Apter, is devoted specifically to this issue. Likewise, the Modern Language Association and the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages regularly feature sessions at their annual conventions that address how to move beyond the study of the canonical literature of nations and national traditions.

Anticipating the way in which literary studies are likely to be—or, one might argue, will have to be—configured in the future, Notre Dame’s Ph.D. in Literature program seeks to move across the conventional national categories that undergird the disciplinary divisions within the humanities and social sciences and to serve as a bridge between languages and literary traditions. The Program’s simultaneously rigorous and flexible design allows its students to develop individualized courses of study in consultation with the director and with faculty in their primary field and in related field(s).  Our innovative program allows our graduates to achieve multiple interdisciplinary competences and to pursue advanced studies in overlapping disciplines and areas of interest such as gender studies, cinema and theatre, or religion and literature.

During their first year of studies in the Ph.D. in Literature Program, students will work closely with the program director to define their primary and secondary fields or areas of interest. This will enable them to choose their courses in a coherent manner so that in the years devoted to coursework they will be able simultaneously to broaden and deepen their knowledge in their main fields of interest.

There are many different ways to define and structure one’s area of specialization and related fields. These fields of interest may be organized, for example, around historical periods (e.g., late antiquity, medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, fin de siècle, etc.), genres (e.g., epic, tragedy, comedy, the ancient and/or modern novel, etc.), literary movements (e.g., modernism, symbolism, the avant-garde, etc.), literary traditions and languages (e.g., ancient Greek, Irish, Latin, Francophone, Spanish, German, Italian, etc.), geographical areas (e.g., Caribbean, Latin America, Africa), interdisciplinary relations (e.g., philosophy and literature, religion and literature, socio-political aspects of literature, etc.), or literary theory and criticism. These are just some conventional examples, used here by way of illustration; there are many other imaginative and creative ways to define one’s fields of specialization and interest—and the Ph.D. in Literature Program is sufficiently flexible to accommodate a wide range of them.